Airship ahoy! Could airships replace planes?
Airships could replace aircraft on cargo flights to cut costs and emissions, quicken the delivery of aid and ease demand for airport expansion, Smith School researchers say.
Modern airships can carry far more than planes, take off from most surfaces including water, and use less fuel than other forms of transport.
They could also operate from close to production centres and, if passengers accepted longer flight times, costs and fuel use for passenger flights would also be reduced.
“We could see ‘lorries in the sky’ able to make multiple deliveries and collections, and connect distant communities with international markets,” the Smith School’s Dr Chris Carey says.
“The as-the-crow-flies capability of airships means airship routes would be more flexible than both road and rail. This would be particularly attractive in developing countries and keep transport emissions low in those countries.”
They would reduce the need for airport expansion and ease demands on air traffic control, because they fly at much lower altitudes.
Airships would not need hard paved runways and would produce fewer local pollutants.
Aid agencies are among those who could benefit, with emergency supplies delivered more quickly and at much lower cost than by air and road.
Dr Carey is planning a second study which will look in more detail at all aspects of commercial airship development.
He is based at the Smith School’s Low Carbon Mobility centre, one of six research centres at the School. The potential for low carbon transport is the theme of the School’s second World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment in June.